Today is World Mental Health day and while it might seem like recently everyday of the week is some kind of bizarre national day (from emojis to Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk Day?! – 11th Feb in case you were wondering) this one is actually really important! The underlying vision of the Mental Health Foundation, which promotes World Mental Health Day, is for a world with good mental health for everyone. They, like myself, believe that with better education, information and support, especially during childhood and adolescence, the chances of developing mental health issues can greatly be reduced.
This is the main reason I am now so comfortable taking about my own difficulties, because I truly believe the more people openly talk about mental health the less the stigma and embarrassment those who suffer will feel, and will be more likely to seek help. Not only this but recognising the symptoms and addressing them before negative coping mechanisms such as eating disorders, self-harm, avoidance behaviours, alcoholism or drug abuse occur will make the road to recovery so much easier. It is often the negative behaviours that develop due to an undiagnosed mental health issue that are the hardest to address and not the issue itself.
If you can find the strength to talk to your peers about how you’re feeling I think you’ll be surprised to find that most have a similar story to share. We all go through difficult periods and many of us suffer with anxiety or depression at some point. Opening up leads to sharing stories, which can make you feel a lot more ‘normal’ – you’ll realise that “it’s not just me!” which can be such a comfort.
The worst thing you can do, and when I say this I talk from my own disastrous experience, is suffer in silence. It’s so easy to keep thinking you can deal with it on your own, I felt ashamed and I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t cope with the thoughts and feelings I was having. I thought I would be admitting failure so I tried everything to make myself feel better but nothing worked. Back then mental health was such a taboo subject and I really didn’t feel able to talk about it, I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I suffer with social anxiety and the worst thing to someone who is going through that is not ‘fitting in’ or drawing attention to yourself, so the idea of making it even worse by asking for help and admitting I wasn’t coping just felt impossible to me. I was so worried about what other people would think of me.
If I had been able address my social anxiety during my teenage years then I really believe my life would have been so different. Instead the years of pretending caused much more damage, at my rock bottom I was just a shell of my current self. So please, talk about mental health. Ask someone how he or she are or share a story you have. You’ll get so much back from it I guarantee. At some point in our lives we’ll all need a little extra help whether you suffer with mental health issues or are simply going through a difficult time.
Please don’t feel like a failure, you’re not, to be brave enough to just admit you need some help is such a massive achievement. Anyone who makes you feel weird, strange or the worst – crazy – is simply ignorant and the only way to change that is by more knowledge and discussion. So lets all make an effort to be the change we want to see and spread awareness. Share this recipe and my story and you never know whose life you could make easier.
This is a great recipe; its all cooked in one pan, there’s hardly any washing up, it’s simple, healthy and has lots of lovely veggies in plus it’s ready in less than 30 minutes. You can pick up the ingredients for about a fiver, depending on where you shop, and just add a few store-cupboard staples and you’ve got a meal for four people. We usually have it as a dinner for two and then have the leftovers for lunch the next day, pasta really does get tastier once it’s sat for a while as all the flavours soak in, in fact my husband actually prefers it the day after. This base recipe is really versatile too, add diced chorizo or bacon for a meaty version or vary the vegetables based on what you have in the fridge.
One-Pan Pasta with Mediterranean Vegetables
Ready in 30 minutes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 aubergine, diced
1 courgette, diced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. sundried tomato puree, I used Gia.
4 tsp vegetable bullion
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes (optional, only add if you like a kick)
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
350g buccotini, spaghetti or linguine pasta
30g fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, to serve
Make the vegetable bullion up to 1.2 litres with boiling water. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and fry the garlic, aubergine, courgette and pepper with a pinch of salt on a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until softened, stirring often. Add everything else to the pan (apart from the Parmesan and basil) and pour over the stock.
Bring up to the boil, helping the pasta to fully submerge. Once the pasta is covered and the liquid is bubbling simmer gently for the time stated on the pasta packet, stirring occasionally with tongs, until the liquid has been absorbed and the sauce coats the pasta. Test a strand; you may need to cook for 2-3 mins more, depending on the brand and how you like it cooked. Grate over about 3 tbsp of Parmesan and add a handful of basil and stir it well, divide into 4 bowls. Serve with more grated Parmesan and fresh basil on top.